Hormones during labour

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Hormones during labour – what, why, how do i get more?

Oxytocin is often known as the “hormone of love” because it is involved with lovemaking, fertility, contractions during labor and birth, and the release of milk in breastfeeding.

Oxytocin stimulates powerful contractions, which help to thin and open (dilate) the cervix, move the baby down and out of the birth canal, expel the placenta, and limit bleeding at the site of the placenta. During labor and birth, the pressure of the baby against the cervix, and then against tissues in the pelvic floor, stimulates oxytocin and contractions. 

You can promote your body’s production of oxytocin during labour and birth by:

* staying calm, comfortable, and confident
* avoiding disturbances, such as unwelcome people or noise and uncomfortable procedures
* staying upright and using gravity to apply your baby against your cervix and then, as the baby is born, against the tissues of your pelvic floor
* engaging in nipple or clitoral stimulation activities before birth and giving your baby a chance to suckle shortly after birth
* avoiding epidural analgesia.

In response to stress and pain, your body produces calming and pain-relieving hormones known as endorphins. The level of this natural opiate substance may rise toward the end of pregnancy.  High endorphin levels during labor and birth can produce an altered state of consciousness that can help you flow with the process, even if it is long and challenging.

You can enhance your body’s production of endorphins during labour and birth by:

* staying calm, comfortable, and confident
* avoiding disturbances, such as unwelcome people or noise and uncomfortable procedures
* delaying or avoiding epidural or opioids as a pain relief method.

Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone that humans produce to help ensure survival. Women who feel threatened during labor (for example by fear or severe pain) may produce high levels of adrenaline. Adrenaline can slow labor or stop it altogether. Earlier in human evolution, this disruption helped birthing women move to a place of greater safety. 

You can keep adrenaline down during labour and birth by:

* staying calm, comfortable, and relaxed
* being informed and prepared
* having trust and confidence in your body and your capabilities as a birthing woman
* having trust and confidence in your caregivers and birth setting
* being in a calm, peaceful, and private environment and avoiding conflict
* being with people who can provide comfort measures, good information, positive words, and other support
* avoiding intrusive, painful, disruptive procedures.

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